Tom Danehy: The Vatican Observatory's assertion that the world isn't ending doesn't exactly soothe Tom's soul (Tucson Weekly)
One of my players (I won't embarrass Riley by mentioning her name) was somewhat freaked out by the whole thing, saying, "How can they joke about it? What if it really is the end of the world?"
Henry Rollins: Gay Marriage Is Punk Rock (LA Weekly)
Hats off to Washington state where, recently, hundreds of same-sex couples were legally married. I am elated as much as I am frustrated by why this country refuses to wake up and smell the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.
Paul Krugman: The Eighteenth Brumaire of Barack Obama (New York Times)
These days, political events occur, as it were, twice - the first time as near-tragedy, the second time as farce.
Jill Harness: A Few Tolkien-rific Facts About the Book Version of 'The Hobbit' (Neatorama)
He didn't even start to think about hobbits until the early 1930's, when a sentence popped into his head as he was grading some tests. He immediately scribbled down the words, "In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit" and within a few years, he finished the story.
Charlie Jane Anders: 9 Joyful Ways to Demolish Your Favorite Genre (io9)
Genres don't have to be comfortable old pairs of socks. Genre storytelling can be thrilling and unexpected - and one major way to seize the element of surprise is to bust out of genre boundaries, like a rocket sled crashing through the walls of dreamland.
Dana Stevens: The 10 Best Movies of 2012 (Slate)
Presidents, plagues, love, death, a hot dance number, a hell of a carnival ride, and more.
Roger Ebert: I've Heard the Mermaids Singing (3 ½ stars)
"I've Heard the Mermaids Singing" then develops into a much more subtle character study than the opening scenes might have prepared us for. Gabrielle, the Curator, reveals that her greatest regret in life is her inability to become a great painter; she sells the work of others, but she cannot paint.
Sheri Linden: Review of "The Sound of Noise" (LA Times)
Spoofing police procedurals while bowing deeply to John Cage, the cheeky Swedish feature pits a music-loathing yet sympathetic detective against a group of anarchist percussionists. In lesser hands the mash-up might be nothing more than an act of cinematic contortion. But filmmakers Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjärne Nilsson and their engaging cast pull off the feat with no strain and a surprising amount of heart.
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Michelle in AZ
Have a great weekend... ;)
Strange Endangered Primates
Knowing the insatiable thirst for knowledge that y'all E! fans possess, indeed even unto the most obscure of places and things, I present to you...
most humbly, mind you now...
From The Creator of 'Avery Ant'
While walking home from the store, found a really nice i-pod nano.
It has a wrist strap and is chock full of music.
From the massive playlist, I'd guess it belongs to a woman with a sense of humor and that she really likes music from the 80s.
We placed a 'found' ad in the local paper, and have put up signs around where it was found, but no response.
Is there any info in the i-pod that could lead back to the owner?
I know nothing about i-pods, and living in crappy dial-up-land, it's not a big deal.
But we'd like to do the right thing and return it.
from that Mad Cat, JD
In The Chaos Household
Clear and cold (for these parts).
Global Hot Spots
Though the Mayans never really predicted that the world would end on Friday, some New Agers are convinced that humanity's demise is indeed imminent. Or at least that it's a good excuse for a party.
Believers are being drawn to spots where they think their chances of survival will be better, and accompanying them are the curious, the party-lovers and people wanting to make some money.
About 1,000 self-described shamans, seers, stargazers, crystal enthusiasts, yogis, sufis and swamis are gathering in a convention center in the city of Merida on the Yucatan peninsula about an hour and a half from the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza, convinced that it was a good start to the coming "New Era" supposed to begin around 5:00 a.m. local time Friday. These are not people who believe the world will end on Friday: the summit is scheduled to run through Dec. 23. Instead, participants say, they want to celebrate the birth of a new age.
According to one rumor, a rocky mountain in the French Pyrenees will be the sole place on earth to escape destruction. A giant UFO and aliens are said to be waiting under the mountain, ready to burst through and spirit those nearby to safety. But here is bad news for those seeking salvation: French gendarmes, some on horseback, are blocking outsiders from reaching the Bugarach peak and its village of some 200 people.
Hundreds of people have already converged on Stonehenge for an "End of the World" party that coincides with the Winter Solstice.
Says "Door Open" To End London Stand-Off
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said on Thursday the "door was open" for talks to end his refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he holed up six months ago to avoid extradition to Sweden for alleged sex crimes.
However, Assange, 41, making his first public appearance for months, vowed to stay where he was while he remained under threat from U.S. authorities and said his website's work would continue with the release of over a million more files.
"Six months ago - 185 days ago - I entered this building. It has become my home, my office and my refuge," he said from a narrow balcony on the ground floor of the red-brick block in the affluent Knightsbridge area of London.
"Thanks to the principled stance of the Ecuadorian government and the support of its people, I am safe in this embassy and safe to speak from this embassy," he told media from around the globe and 200 cheering supporters.
The speech was Assange's second balcony appearance since he sought refuge in the embassy in June to avoid extradition from Britain to Sweden to face charges of rape and sexual assault, having exhausted all the legal tools at his disposal.
Benefactor Buys Wright-Designed Home
An anonymous benefactor has purchased and wants to preserve a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home in Phoenix that had been threatened with demotion, a real estate broker, city officials and a preservationist group said Thursday in separate announcements.
Wright designed the 1950s home for his son and daughter-in-law. It was twice sold in recent years, and preservationists objected last summer when they learned a development company planned to demolish the home in order to split the property.
The Chicago-based Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy said the new buyer wants to remain anonymous. The property was purchased through a corporation that will transfer it to a not-for-profit organization, which will restore, maintain and operate the home for educational purposes, the conservancy said.
The conservancy said the home is the only Wright-designed residence that uses a circular spiral plan similar to the Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum in New York, which was built after the home.
Broadway Musical To Enter History Books
The musical "Chicago" is about to swagger into the history books again.
Thursday night's performance of the edgy musical will be its 6,681, meaning it becomes the third longest-running show in Broadway history. It snatches that title from "Les Miserables."
The only shows that have run longer are "Cats," with almost 7,500 shows, and "The Phantom of the Opera," which is still going after more than 10,300 performances.
It was only last year that "Chicago" took over third place on the list, beating out "A Chorus Line."
Higher Death Risk
An academic study published Thursday confirms that rock and pop musicians are more likely to die prematurely than the general population, and finds that solo artists are twice as likely to die young as members of bands.
Researchers from Liverpool John Moores University and Britain's Health Department studied 1,489 rock, pop, punk, R&B, rap, electronica and New Age stars who became famous between 1956 and 2006 - from Elvis Presley to the Arctic Monkeys.
They found that 137 of the stars, or 9.2 percent, had died, representing "higher levels of mortality than demographically matched individuals in the general population."
The researchers dismissed the "fanciful but unsubstantiated" popular myth that rock stars tend to die at 27 - as Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse all did. The average age of death was 45.2 years for North American stars and 39.6 for European ones.
Solo performers had twice the death risk of members of bands. Lead researcher Mark Bellis speculated that could be because bands provide peer support at stressful times.
Suzy Favor Hamilton
Three-time Olympian Suzy Favor Hamilton says she coped with depression and a troubled marriage by turning to a life of prostitution.
In a series of posts to her Twitter account, Favor Hamilton acknowledged working as an escort following a report Thursday on The Smoking Gun website about her double life.
The Smoking Gun said the 44-year-old athlete has been working for the last year for a Las Vegas escort service that booked her for dates there, as well as in Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago. The website said she charged $600 an hour for her services.
One of the country's best-ever middle-distance runners, Favor Hamilton competed for the U.S. at the Olympics in 1992, 1996 and 2000 but did not win a medal. She won seven U.S. national titles. She lives in Madison, Wis., where, The Smoking Gun reported, she and her husband, Mark, live in a $600,000 home and appear to be in no financial distress based on the website's review of court and municipal records.
A nine-time NCAA champion for Wisconsin, Favor Hamilton is the namesake of the Big Ten's Suzy Favor Athlete of the Year Award, given to the conference's top female athlete.
Suzy Favor Hamilton
Estate Dispute Secretly Settled
Thomas Kinkade's widow and girlfriend have reached a settlement after a dispute over the late artist's $66 million estate, their attorneys said Wednesday.
The San Jose Mercury News reports that counsel for Nanette Kinkade and his girlfriend Amy Pinto announced the settlement but wouldn't provide further details, leaving it unclear who will inherit Kinkade's San Francisco Bay area mansion and his warehouse of paintings.
In a statement, they said the women kept Kinkade's message of "love, spirituality and optimism" in their amicable resolution.
The dispute went public after the sanctimonious 54-year-old artist died April 6 from an accidental overdose of alcohol and prescription tranquilizers.
Putin Makes Offer
President Vladimir Putin offered French actor Gerard Depardieu a Russian passport on Thursday, saying he would welcome the 63-year-old celebrity who is embroiled in a bitter tax row with France's socialist government.
Weighing into a dispute over a hike in taxes, Putin heaped praise on Depardieu, making the offer of citizenship in response to a question during his annual televised press conference.
"If Gerard really wants to have either a residency permit in Russia or a Russian passport, we will assume that this matter is settled and settled positively," Putin said.
French daily Le Monde reported on Tuesday that Depardieu had told his close friends he was considering three options to escape France's new tax regime: moving to Belgium, where he owns a home, relocating to Montenegro, where he has a business, or fleeing to Russia.
China's Airing Stuns Viewers
'V for Vendetta'
Television audiences across China watched an anarchist antihero rebel against a totalitarian government and persuade the people to rule themselves. Soon the Internet was crackling with quotes of "V for Vendetta's" famous line: "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people."
The airing of the movie Friday night on China Central Television stunned viewers and raised hopes that China is loosening censorship.
"V for Vendetta" never appeared in Chinese theaters, but it is unclear whether it was ever banned. An article on the Communist Party's People's Daily website says it was previously prohibited from broadcast, but the spokesman for the agency that approves movies said he was not aware of any ban.
The 2005 movie, based on a comic book, is set in an imagined future Britain with a fascist government. The protagonist wears a mask of Guy Fawkes, the 17th-century English rebel who tried to blow up Parliament. The mask has become a revolutionary symbol for young protesters in mostly Western countries, and it also has a cult-like status in China as pirated DVDs are widely available. Some people have used the image of the mask as their profile pictures on Chinese social media sites.
'V for Vendetta'
Happiest People On Planet
The world's happiest people aren't in Qatar, the richest country by most measures. They aren't in Japan, the nation with the highest life expectancy. Canada, with its chart-topping percentage of college graduates, doesn't make the top 10.
A poll released Wednesday of nearly 150,000 people around the world says seven of the world's 10 countries with the most upbeat attitudes are in Latin America.
Gallup Inc. asked about 1,000 people in each of 148 countries last year if they were well-rested, had been treated with respect, smiled or laughed a lot, learned or did something interesting and felt feelings of enjoyment the previous day.
In Panama and Paraguay, 85 percent of those polled said yes to all five, putting those countries at the top of the list. They were followed closely by El Salvador, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand, Guatemala, the Philippines, Ecuador and Costa Rica.
The people least likely to report positive emotions lived in Singapore, the wealthy and orderly city-state that ranks among the most developed in the world. Other wealthy countries also sat surprisingly low on the list. Germany and France tied with the poor African state of Somaliland for 47th place.
The Top 20 Concert Tours ranks artists by average box office gross per city and includes the average ticket price for shows in North America. The previous week's ranking is in parentheses. The list is based on data provided to the trade publication Pollstar by concert promoters and venue managers.
1. (1) Barbra Streisand; $4,065,743; $263.52.
2. (2) Madonna; $3,721,998; $182.99.
3. (3) Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band; $2,112,148; $93.90.
4. (4) Justin Bieber; $1,217,217; $75.72.
5. (New) Rush; $846,494; $86.39.
6. (New) The Who; $845,015; $85.86.
7. (5) Peter Gabriel; $824,571; $97.30.
8. (6) Leonard Cohen; $775,573; $98.51.
9. (7) Red Hot Chili Peppers; $715,544; $57.10.
10. (8) Jason Aldean; $685,857; $37.44.
11. (9) Zac Brown Band; $665,556; $46.93.
12. (10) Brad Paisley; $586,944; $42.23.
13. (New) Trans-Siberian Orchestra; $581,326; $52.25.
14. (11) Journey; $524,805; $63.70.
15. (12) Carrie Underwood; $516,095; $58.98.
16. (13) Rascal Flatts; $487,768; $42.62.
17. (14) Bob Dylan; $447,501; $77.57.
18. (15) Luke Bryan; $368,597; $34.98.
19. (16) Eric Church; $310,486; $40.60.
20. (17) Train; $235,320; $48.41.